With great power comes great responsibility: Why we’ve updated the ADMA Code of Practice

Jodie SangsterToday ADMA is releasing a new Code of Practice for its members. Here CEO Jodie Sangster explains why.

In 2006 John Howard was Prime Minister. The iPhone was a year away from its consumer release, Twitter had just launched and the NBN was merely an opposition policy platform. It was also the year that ADMA (then The Australian Direct Marketing Association) last updated its Code of Practice.

You don’t need me to tell you that much has changed since then with technology transforming the way consumers interact with brands. The marketing landscape has evolved at lightning speed and the pace of change is only accelerating.

Our revised Code has been a long time coming, in part due to the proliferation of data in the last few years. When I became ADMA’s CEO in 2011 volumes were growing exponentially. Since then, data capabilities have exploded and show no sign of slowing down.

However, the impetus for the new Code was the realisation that the changes to the marketing landscape have been so transformative, that an entirely new approach to the Code was required. Put simply, our goal was to create an actionable roadmap that would be accessible and understandable for marketers whilst retaining relevance as new technologies and practices emerge.  To achieve this goal we had to effectively start from scratch. The result is a new customer-centric and principle-driven Code of Practice along with a brand new seven-member Code Authority, overseeing Code related complaints.

At its heart the Code is designed to encourage marketers to think about and put the customer experience front and centre in everything they do – giving them a framework in which to harness data in a responsible but effective way. The Code aims to enable customer-centric best practice in order to ensure continued innovation in data-driven marketing.  It encourages marketers to go beyond compliance and to use this as a point of differentiation, to distinguish and promote their brand.

Developing a Code that centres on customer-centric best practice is important for two key reasons:

Firstly if the marketing industry wishes to operate in an agile environment that encourages innovation, self-regulation is imperative. The brave new world of big data comes both with immense opportunity and scrutiny. Every privacy and data malpractice incident accelerates concerns among policy makers. Given that government legislation rarely evolves at the same pace as the industry it seeks to regulate, we need to get it right in order to avoid industry-stifling intervention.

More importantly however, a customer-centric approach to marketing is no longer a nice aspiration; it is rapidly becoming a prerequisite for business success and ultimately survival. Consumers are empowered by the same technology that allows brands to provide customised marketing, products and experiences to them. Consequently they are much more likely to switch brands if they don’t get the experience that they expect and are able to share their criticisms in real time to an unprecedentedly large global audience; trust and meaningful engagement is hard won.

That the customer should be king isn’t a new concept. But what is new are the technologies that allow companies to deeply understand their customers and then provide personalised and contextual services to them. The Code Framework (including Code Guidelines and resources) will provide media-agnostic support and guidance that today’s new breed of marketers need in order to make responsible decisions about data, technology, creativity, content and customer experience across all platforms and channels.

Putting the customer first also mirrors the tenor of our legislative regime.  Broadly speaking all consumer based Australia laws embody principles of responsibility, choice, fairness, transparency honesty and safety – the very same principles that are enshrined in ADMA’s new Code.

These watch-words also extend to responsibility for the actions of subcontractors and suppliers. The marketing eco-system is expansive and only getting bigger with the advent of wearables and Internet of Things enabled platforms. Many of today’s nascent technologies, which require partnering with small niche companies, will become tomorrow’s mainstream marketing tools so we need to ensure they are harnessed in an ethical way.

Data-driven marketing is no longer the future of marketing. It IS marketing.  As the saying goes “with great power comes great responsibility” and our new Code is designed to acknowledge this power – providing the roadmap for responsible and innovative customer-centric engagement for the here and now and into the future.

  • Jodie Sangster is the CEO of ADMA

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